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What is a cross cut shredder and why is it critical to secure document shredding?

Posted February 03, 2015 by Jenny Green


More than half of large businesses and nearly three quarters of SMEs use an office shredder to shred their confidential paperwork in-house, according to the results from our most recent Information Security Tracker survey.  With so many stories relating to security breaches hitting the press lately, it’s understandable that any responsible business wants to protect itself from a breach, so the intention is clearly a good one.

But how many business owners and managers are aware of the potential risk to their organisation posed by this increasingly common piece of office equipment?

Many of the smaller type of shredders found in many offices shred documents into vertical strips, particularly the older models.  But the simple fact is that strip shredding is not secure.  The pieces of these documents can be reassembled, either manually or with readily available computer software programs, leaving businesses unwittingly exposed to a potential data breach.

Far more effective, and virtually impossible to reconstitute, is the cross cut shredder used by professional information destruction organisations to reduce confidential materials to fine pieces of confetti.  The shredding machines used by some third party experts, including Shred-it, also tear the edges of the shred, producing uneven fragments for even greater security.  Shredded paper is then compacted under massive pressure into solid bales ready for transportation to a recycler.

Even if you have a cross cut shredder in your office, there are a number of serious security issues you could potentially have to contend with.  Not least of which is the delay between documents being earmarked for shredding and when they are actually shredded.  Let’s face it: shredding paper isn’t most employees’ idea of a productive or mission-critical task, so paper is left to pile up on peoples’ desks, next to the shredder or worst of all, just thrown in the recycling bin.

If you’re shredding your own documents in-house make sure:

  1. You use a cross cut shredder
  2. Employees have somewhere secure to keep any documents identified for shredding
  3. It’s clear what documents should be shredded – implementing an information security policy is key to this and adopting a ‘shred all’ approach is safest
  4. Documents do actually get shredded – audit employee work areas and check your recycling bins for evidence of staff taking unsecure short cuts

January is one of the biggest months of the year for clearing the decks and making a fresh start, particularly when it comes to office clutter and unwanted paperwork (whatever happened to the paperless office?!)  If you’ve had a clear out and your office shredder is struggling to cope with the volume of paper to be destroyed, it may be a good time to look at outsourcing the job to a specialist.  It could save you a great deal of time and hassle – and perhaps more importantly, save you from a damaging and costly data security breach.

Join the conversation on secure destruction and information security @Shredit_UK on Twitter.

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